First off, thanks so much for joining us for an up-close and personal interview for TeensReadToo.com! My name is Jen, and I’ll be your server toda…oh, wait, wrong job! Anyway, thanks so much for taking time out of your writing schedule—which I’m sure is busy!—and answering a few questions for your readers and fans.
Hi Jen, I'm glad to be here.
Let’s get some of the typical interview questions out of the way first. When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
When I was 9, I wrote what would later become the first chapter of Stormwind of the North Country. It was just a short story that was based on a dream I had. I had no idea that that simple story would become a part of my life, as new characters and situations came to my mind.
High school was about the first time that I really considered writing for a living. In my senior yearbook, I predicted that in ten years I'd be "a rich writer living on my own island with a horse and dogs." I'm not there yet, but it's still fun to dream about!
Can you tell us a little bit about your road to publishing?
Twenty-two years passed since I began Stormwind of the North Country: years of writing it on-and-off throughout high school and college. In 2000, I began sending it out to publishers and agents with nothing to show for it but about 25 rejection letters. By then I was running out to suitable places to send it, so I put the manuscript in my desk and forgot about it for awhile.
After I was laid-off from my job in December 2008, I decided to use my new free time to do a major re-write and revision of the manuscript. It was the perfect opportunity to make it a story that I could be proud of.
I submitted the final manuscript to Publish America after finding them on the Internet, and it was accepted within days. About two months later, April 2009, Stormwind of the North Country was officially released.
Tell us a little bit about either your latest or upcoming release. If you could only tell your readers one thing about the story that had to convince us to buy the book, what would it be?
In Stormwind of the North Country, readers can join Kat, her dog, Hesperus, and her rescued Arabian mare, Stormwind, in their adventures in the Adirondack Mountains. The summer that she is fourteen years old, Kat must protect Stormwind from abuse at a nearby stable, save her father's land from a greedy real estate developer, and help her best friend come to terms with his troubled past. When Kat runs away into the wilderness with Stormwind and Hesperus, she befriends a fellow runaway who ultimately saves her from a violent criminal. When they're forced to return to Kat's house, she must adjust to life in high school, and deal with the family problem she'd left behind.
Despite the gray Arabian on the cover, Stormwind of the North Country is more than just a horse story. Readers who enjoy stories about animals and outdoor survival and adventure would like this book.
What, or who, has been the greatest inspiration for your stories?
My greatest inspiration for this book was my life growing up in a small town in the Adirondack Mountains. When I was ten, my parents built a log cabin on a mountain road. Miles of forest surrounded our ten acres. Up the road was a big old farmhouse, in fields surrounded by the woods and mountains. That specific place inspired the setting for Kat's enormous old house. I only lived along that road for a few years, but I never forgot my time living there, and much of that comes out in my stories.
My experiences with my horses have also inspired much of my writing. The things I learned with my first horse, (which was given to me when I was twelve years old) and the one I have now (which I mention in the next question) gave me many ideas that make the descriptions of Kat's times with Stormwind more true to life.
Let’s hear about your family, who I’m sure are thrilled to have a published author among them!
I'm single and live about three miles from my mom, who is my biggest fan. And then there's Summer, my shaggy little dog, two cats, Honey and Rio, a tank of goldfish, and my old but still spirited Arabian/Quarter Horse gelding, Solomon.
I was an only child until age fifteen, when my half-sister was born. Now a teenager, she is also a writer. I suspect that we get that from our father, who tells the greatest campfire stories. They live in Florida with my recently adopted teenage brother, and my step-mother. I also have a step-brother in the Air Force, whom I haven't seen in several years.
Now for some fun facts. What’s your greatest comfort food?
Macaroni and Cheese - whether it's boxed or homemade, I love it all! I also can't resist a big plate of spaghetti, or fettuccine Alfredo - especially with shrimp.
What are the first three things you do when you wake up in the morning?
Stay in bed until the very last minute, then go turn on the computer, and eat a bowl of Honey-Nut Cheerios.
If I came to your house and looked in your closet/attic/basement, what’s the one thing that would surprise me the most?
The deer skull sitting on my closet shelf, which I haven't yet figured out how to hang on my kitchen wall.
Everyone asks the question about “if you could be a tree, which tree would you be?” so I want to know: If you could be a color, which color would it be, and why?
Since I love both the mountains and the ocean, I'd have to say both green and blue. Green, for nature and the forest. Blue, for the water and sky, to symbolize my summer vacations to Cape Cod as a teenager, and one special summer when I lived there near the sea. And both colors could represent my favorite vacation spot: Monhegan Island, ME.
Who is your favorite cartoon character?
Calvin and Hobbes. Also Garfield, who reminds me of one of my cats.
Which cartoon character is most like you?
Calvin again. Like him, I have an overactive imagination. I can relate to him daydreaming in school, and playing outside with Hobbes in their own little world, imagining themselves in weird situations.
If you could beam yourself to anywhere in the world (“Beam me up, Scotty!”), during any time in history, where and when would it be—and why?
Definitely the Old West, sometime in the mid-1800's. I could imagine myself living in a cabin that I built myself, growing my own food, and riding or driving a horse everywhere. I think I was born too late.
So what’s your favorite type of music to listen to? Favorite musical artists? Do you listen to music while you’re writing?
Although I enjoy (or can at least tolerate) most types of music, my favorites are folk and Celtic, classic rock, rock, country, classic country, bluegrass, and Christian. These are only a few of my favorites:
FOLK AND CELTIC MUSIC: Gordon Bok, Gordon Lightfoot, John Denver, Stan Rogers, Dougie Maclean, the Tannahill Weavers, Loreena McKennett, Archie Fisher, James Keelaghan, James Taylor, Cindy Kallet, Indigo Girls, Richard Shindell, Nickle Creek, Sarah McLachlan…
COUNTRY: Johnny Cash, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Alabama…
ROCK: Journey, REO Speedwagon, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Train, Crosby Stills and Nash, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Fleetwood Mac, Eagles, Five for Fighting, Creed, Nickleback, Third Day…
I don't listen to music when I'm writing; I can't concentrate. But sometimes I'll hear a song that reminds me of a certain character or story situation, and it helps me to think more deeply about them.
Do you have any favorite T.V. shows? Movies you watch over and over again? What was the last movie you saw at the theater?
I never miss American Idol. I also like Extreme Makeover - Home Edition, The Amazing Race, Cops, and reruns of Friends. And I get hooked into watching America's Next Top Model when they have the all day marathons of it. As a kid growing up in the '80's, my all-time favorite show was ALF.
My favorite movies are Titanic, (my best friend and I watched this over and over at the movies when it first came out) Forrest Gump, Big, Toy Story, Cars, Hoot, Mrs. Doubtfire, Secondhand Lions, Fried Green Tomatoes, Dances With Wolves, Nim's Island. And I thought that Mall Cop and the Shrek movies were hysterical.
The last time I was at a theater was before 2005, when I moved up here to my small town, which is a 90-minute drive from the malls. I think the movie I saw was Because of Winn-Dixie.
You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your teen readers. What would it be?
Have a dream for your life. Do something that makes you happy, even if it may not pay a lot of money.
One last question. What stories can we look forward to from you in the future?
I'm slowly working on the sequel to Stormwind of the North Country. When Jake, one of the adult characters from the first book, is accused of a murder that he didn't commit, Kat, her brother, and friend help him hide from the police in a forgotten secret room in their house. When he's discovered, they all must fight to clear his name and find the true criminal…without becoming his next victims.
I also have a series of short stories about the same characters: 10-year-old country boy Jack, and his best friend Rock, a former city kid who moved in up the road. Jack and Rock get into mischief and adventures when they capture an escaped convict, meet a mysterious hermit known as Old Man Jason, and much more.
Finally, I have Tugboat Tales, a lighthearted fantasy story about two homeless, landlubber brothers - responsible and straight-laced Amoelo, and carefree surfer Bruce - who end up living on a ramshackle old tugboat with a very…big…secret.
Again, thanks so much for joining us at TeensReadToo.com!
Thank you for having me on your website!